I Didn't Know

Originally Performed ByPhish
Appears On
Music/LyricsRichard Wright
VocalsMike, Page, Trey
Phish Debut1987-11-18
Last Played2023-07-23
Current Gap33
HistorianMockingbird Staff
Last Update2019-09-30


"I Didn't Know" is typical Phish: arbitrarily quirky lyrics in an AABB rhyme scheme, delivered in three-part harmony accompanied by a thumping bass line, and altogether a bit about having “lost it.”

The song, written by band friend Richard “Nancy” Wright (who sang it with Phish 5/14/88), was first known to be performed on 11/18/87, and was included on the band’s first promotional tape circulated in 1988. "I Didn't Know" holds a definite connection with the Big Band Era, particularly to Mack Gordon's "Chattanooga Choo Choo", made popular by the Glen Miller Orchestra. “I Didn’t Know” was in heavy rotation from 1988 through 1995. Though its frequency has declined dramatically from those days, it still makes regular appearances and has never strayed far, with only two performance gaps of over 50 shows, during most of 1997, and spanning 2010-11.

"I Didn't Know" – 3/24/92, Richmond, VA

Though almost entirely vocal, there are only two true a cappella renditions. The first was on 3/28/92, a microphone-less version due to authorities refusing to allow the band to plug in their instruments because of a theater flood, and the next on 4/1/93, an Ancient Forests Benefit in Portland, OregonMore typically, the lone bass is joined by an instrumental oddity, including washboard (Fishman, 3/31/93), cymbals (Mimi Fishman, 4/8/94), megaphone (Trey, 6/15/95), trombone (Fishman, 6/20/88, 9/27/95, and 12/28/95), bass drum pedal (Fishman, with his knee, 6/29/94), of course the vacuum (Fish mostly, but Mimi on 7/19/91), and, finally, the Bag Vac (Fishman, combining vacuum cleaner and bagpipes, 3/24/92).

Few modern versions stand out. Memorable were the transitions into an abbreviated “Dust in the Wind” on 7/18/03 and “Feel the Heat” on 12/31/03, a spirited "Let's Go, Flyers!" crowd chant on 6/24/10 during the vacuum solo, an appearance during the “Tuck” show on 6/19/12 in Portsmouth, VA, and a crowd sing-along on 12/31/15 at MSG.

"I Didn't Know" – 8/16/11, Chicago, IL

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